High school economics students are expected to understand concepts related to scarcity, market competition, entrepreneurship and government regulation, among other things. Learning through doing projects helps students to remember what they've learned and to practice skills in a way that is not offered by traditional instruction, says the Buck Institute for Education. Certain projects aimed at the high school economics student help to cement required skills necessary for future success.
Figuring the Cost of College
The scarcity of resources and opportunity cost are fundamental principles of economics. Students must understand that resources, be it time, money or anything else of value, are limited. Calculating the cost of college is a great way to not only allow students to apply these concepts, but also to start thinking about their academic and financial futures. Ask students to choose three different colleges and research the cost of tuition, books, room and board and other miscellaneous items, such as travel related to distance from home. Next, have students calculate the total monetary cost of attending each institution and make a final decision. This could also be a good opportunity to discuss non-monetary costs and benefits, such as the prestige of a particular school, which should be factored into an educated decision.
Starting a Business
High school students are expected to know the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and market competition. Both concepts can be taught through a controlled experiment of starting a small business. Assign a specific type of business to a group of students, such as a restaurant or landscaping company. Each group should calculate start-up costs, including a commercial lease, any necessary equipment and funds to pay employees for the first year of operation. Next, have students forecast the amount of expected revenue based on similar businesses in your area. This would be a perfect opportunity for students to interview business owners to learn about the real-world problems and benefits associated with starting a business. Finally, have each group present its concept to area business owners who could act as potential investors.
Learning Uncle Sam's Role
The complexities of the government's involvement in business and markets is critical to understanding macroeconomics. It's important to expose students to government regulations and incentives in a way that shows a clear cause-and-effect relationship. Assign each student in a group a different role related to a specific industry, such as the energy sector. One student can play an inspector with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, another can act as an energy company executive, with other students playing the role of commercial energy customers. Provide each group with specific scenarios, such as a spike in energy demand during the summer. Allow the industry executive to weigh the costs and benefits of sourcing the energy through specific means, like coal or renewable energy. Require the federal inspector to ensure that all transmission regulations are met appropriately.
Playing the Market
Playing the stock market requires students to evaluate potential investments, understand how funds and indexes work and evaluate the overall state of the U.S. economy. Give groups of students a fixed amount of money, like $10,000, and ask them to invest it in the stock market. Pick only one market, such as NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange. Have students buy stock in at least five different companies or funds and chart their gains and losses over a fixed amount of time, such as three months. Finally, have them compare with other classmates or groups to see who had the best returns. It's important to focus on why some groups succeeded, perhaps because of luck or better research, and why some groups performed less well, possibly because of a lack of understanding or knowledge of the market.